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Notes from Gordon Clark’s The Johannine Logos

December 18, 2006
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Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. John 8:51

Head people can take heart in Gordon Clark. In this small, pithy volume, Dr. Clark considers the use of the word logos throughout the Gospel of John, as he discusses the intellection of faith and sanctification.

Clark reclaims the heart from the romanticists and post-Kantian experimentalists, and restores it to the mind; for the ancients understood the heart to be the center of understanding, the precursor to intellectual assent.

Clark holds with Augustine, citing the proto-Reformer’s doctrine in De Praedestinatione Sanctorum (2,5): “To believe is to think with assent.” Clark sets forth an apologetic in support of this axiom throughout his 120-page, tightly-packed, and well sequenced book, The Johannine Logos.

Logos, Clark observes, means doctrine,” “logic,” “word,” “saying,” “proposition,” and “theology,” among other concrete notions to be grasped with the mind. “Logos” is not an abstraction, but a factual proposition. Rheema is the Greek word for “word,” which can stand as any word, without extended factual content.

Hope is an intellectual function. As Clark says,

But what is hope other than assent to and belief in certain propositions? Hope is the belief that God will receive me on the judgment day through the merits of Christ. Hope therefore is assent. (p. 119)

Jesus Christ was the Logos, the Word, the bringer of truth, the truth itself. Sanctification, a work of God’s grace, deepens the understanding of the truth of the regenerated believer. Thus Clark posits, “it is knowledge of and assent to the Bible that advances the Christian life.” (p. 120) There is no sentimental feeling or experience that can bring about this knowledge and assent. We can assent to, and thus believe and hope in, facts alone.

We cannot have faith in our “hearts,” unless we affirm the factual propositions of the Bible with our minds. Clark concludes,

Men are rational or intellectual beings because God created them in his image. To contemn truth and to embrace the irrationalities of mystic theology–which cannot in truth be theo-logia at all–is to contemn God. (p. 121)

4 comments:

Victorbravo said…
Excellent concise review.We head people do experience hope. Knowledge and understanding, even if weak, is everything. (This is different from gnosticsm, which is hoping for secret knowledge).Wishing on a star or crossing fingers can be an emotional hope, but they are entirely useless. Without knowing the truth of our condition and the facts of who our savior is and what he did, we are doing nothing more than wishing.
10:26 AM  
HZ said…
I was thinking about this just this morning — to try to get ‘beyond’ the mind is to try to get beyond the creation that we are. However I have seen this kind of thing taken too far– to deny for instance, that faith involves any more than an intellectual assent. Yet “The devils also believe, and tremble” — to deny then, that an Alzheimer’s patient can know God, or that the infant John the Baptist could have been regenerate. The mind is not divorced from the other faculties: we not apprehend solely in propositions, but as a whole being with a mind -which is at a certain stage of development, and apprehends at best imperfectly-, but also with a heart. The mystics are wrong but so are those who want to reduce their wives, or the second person of the Godhead, to a proposition; faith to assent a series of propositions…. The Logos is primarily a Person and faith is primarily a relationship with Him. Thank God my faith doesn’t depend on the ‘work’ of my mind in a set of propositions (I am finding daily how little I grasp or practice even ‘sola fide‘), or I would be hopeless.
1:51 PM  
HZ said…
I just reread my comment and it is hopelessly riddled with typos and left out words…. I suppose it adds credence to my despair of the works of my mind.
1:53 PM  
Mrs. B said…
As always, Heidi, your points are beautiful, brilliant, and well taken. I would find “assent only” to be unsupportable, as I’m sure Clark would. But “heart” is so often incorrectly co-opted into an emotional gnosticism. Knowing must precede believing. I can see John the Baptist leaping in the womb as a knowing response to the presence of his Lord. I think the Alzheimer’s patient, unless he had saving faith before losing his mind, is in the we-can’t-know zone. So not mere assent, no, but that the heart is the locus of understanding, not feeling, is consistent with revelation. Lydia’s heart was opened to understanding; Christ opened his disciples’ minds to the Scriptures after his resurrection. No real difference there. He called them foolish and slow of heart–foolish goes to mental understanding. I think faith is complex, but assent is more than acknowledgement of facts–it is a belief in their truth, and that can only come as a saving grace from God.
2:47 PM  
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4 Comments
  1. Mark W. Lewis permalink
    April 18, 2009 6:22 am

    Mrs B, Thank you for your comment on Clark’s book. I tend to agree with your analyisis of “assent”. Faith does begin with the mind, ie, the “heart” of the understanding, and it “invests itself” into the belief that the propositions found in Scripture are true. I believe Clark would refer to the Bible as the Christians starting point, axiom, or necessary reference in order to a logical understanding of the world around him. The following outline has been helpful to me.

    1. Faith is assent to propositions.
    2. Saving faith is assent to a set of Biblical propositions.
    3. The traditional three-part division of faith as knowledge, assent and trust unnecessarily adds trust to the explanation.
    4. We believe in a Person. But this belief in a Person is no different than believing aspects about that Person. In other words, the “believe in” and “believe that” distinction is really a distinction without a meaningful difference.
    5. The Bible coordinates the mind and heart. When we believe with our hearts it is expressing the action of out minds. By A. Brown

    Blessings, Mark Lewis

  2. April 18, 2009 11:29 am

    Mark, thank you. I appreciate the contribution of your readership.

  3. STANLY permalink
    November 1, 2009 3:52 am

    Dear Brothers & sisters,

    Iam currently living in dubai – united arab emirates. Only in the recent past i came to know Dr.Clark and started reading his Christian view of men and things. Iam very interested in reading his other books. Specifically The Johannine Logos and “predestination”. Here importing christian books needs special permission and it is a tedious process. So I kindly request you all to send me the copy of it to my above e-mail.
    God Bless u all.
    Bro.Stanly

  4. November 1, 2009 8:28 am

    I’m sorry, Stanly, but I have no way to do that.

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